Applying Mark 1: The Temptations of a Servant

Last week was fairly typical.

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Sending my husband off on a trip. Hosting a house guest. Changing beds. Cleaning out the refrigerator. Filling it again. Calling the repairman. Preparing for Bible study. Teaching Pilates at two studios. Writing. Counseling over coffee. Packing for a trip. Sitting down to check email.

I’m a servant, from morning until night. You are, too.

My question is this. How can I be a cheerful servant, not a grouchy one? That’s what I was asking as I opened Mark 1.

If it wasn’t beneath him…

The first thing Mark wants us to know is that Jesus is the Lord, the one Micah and Isaiah talked about. The one whose way needed to be prepared. The one John pointed to. He emerges into public life with authoritative confirmation and the descent of divine power. His speaks authoritative words in the synagogue as well as in the home of Peter. Men follow his call. Demons flee at his command. Sickness unravels at his touch. The Lord came and his name is Jesus.

But he’s also the Lord who came to serve. If serving wasn’t beneath him, it’s not beneath me. His days were crowded with tasks and the people behind them. It didn’t take long for the trickle of need to become a flood. How was our Lord the Servant going to handle it without drowning?

Pull back and pray. 

Mark records one day in Jesus’ life. It was the Sabbath. It began in the synagogue. In the middle of teaching, Jesus is interrupted by a screaming demoniac. After exorcising the demon, I suppose he finished his sermon and then went home for lunch. Peter hosted him, but before he could eat, he was summoned to the sick bed of Peter’s mother in law. He healed her, finished his meal and had a respite until sunset, because of the Sabbath law. But then the whole town knocked at his door bringing all their illnesses, physical and spiritual. It says he healed and cleansed many. But probably not all.

As he went to bed, what was on his mind? The days events? The unfinished work? Tomorrow’s duties? Did he feel pulled by conflicting demands? Was resentment rising with weariness?

Whatever prompted him, Mark describes his next act:

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  Mark 1:35

This verse is often quoted to encourage Christians to have a daily quiet time. “If Jesus needed it, then so do you and I.” But I would also like to suggest it is a call to take our perplexity and temptations to the Father.

The temptations of a servant.

Scripture tells us that in his humanity, Jesus was tempted in every way we are (Hebrews 4:15), yet without sin. Even more he himself has suffered when tempted (Hebrews 2:18), so he understands and can help me with my temptations. What are some of the temptations of a servant?

  • “I’m a mom. I have no life.” I’m tempted when my identity becomes swallowed up by my duties. When I feel like my tasks define me, I ask the Father, “Who am I?” He answers with the same words he said to the Son, “You are my daughter, my beloved. With you I am well pleased.” If I have believed in the Son, this is my identity. I am the Father’s beloved. He is well pleased with me, before I’ve even gotten out of bed. All of my serving flows from who I am in Christ.
  • “Too many bosses!” Sometimes I wonder whom I should be answering to. Every task I do has people behind it, little people who spill cheerios, big people who give performance reviews. Trying to please all the people in my life, especially when their demands become unreasonable or conflicting, makes me crazy. I need to know Whom I am really serving. Jesus was aware that the Father’s mission overruled all other agendas. The Father, whom he had already pleased, was the one he turned to that morning. His pleasure was the only opinion that mattered.
  • “Why bother?” I often find the “what” overwhelms the “why.” I’m a list maker. I’m good at taking a big job and breaking it down into doable bits, the content of my weekly “to do” list. I can chug along at this pace quite well as long as things are calm. But when a crisis occurs–a new baby, a move, family emergencies, job changes–I suddenly see that knowing what to do is not enough, I need to know why. For this I need time with the Father. Even Jesus needed reminding of the eternal purposes of salvation he and the Father had determined together. In the mess of human life, his communion with the Father provided clarity for his mission.
  • “It’s late and I’m tired.” I can’t help wondering where I’m going to get the strength for it all. The baptism of Jesus provides a snapshot I should carry in my wallet next to my grand children’s photos. The Father’s voice, the Son’s upturned face, and the Spirit’s dove-like descent–I need to remember that all three persons are always present in my life and service. The Spirit is my answer to this one. Just as he came in visible form to Jesus as proof of his holiness and as provision for his service, he came to me when I believed in Jesus. The gifts and power Jesus exercised were from the Holy Spirit, just as they are in my life. The power came as he used the gifts, just like they do in my life. The Spirit never departed from him, just as he won’t from me.

Mark 1:35 was my favorite verse this week. What was yours?

What's on your mind?